I was a private detective in the 70's. This case ruined my life. - Chap 1
My name is Franklin Chase, my friends call me Frank. I am a retired private investigator, and there is a case that I think the members of this group will find particularly interesting. The events of this case happened in May of 1977. I was 30 years old at the time and had been a private investigator for around five years at that point. I know, I know, I’m old as dirt now, but that doesn’t matter. The Reaper comes for us all, so keep your comments about my age and possible senility to yourself, I’m sharp as a fucking tack, I assure you.
Anyway, toward the beginning of the month, I had gotten a tip on a missing person. It was a well to do family’s son, a heroin addict that had run from home and hadn’t come back for a month or so. This seemed like a usual case of a dead junkie kid that I, unfortunately, saw all too often. A call comes in from a concerned family, looking for their lost kid, kid’s just been dead for two days in a heroin hideout with a needle sticking out of their arms, legs, feet, shit, I’ve even seen a lady dead, foaming at the mouth with a needle sticking out of her fucking eye. Her track marks were so bad, she felt like her goddamn eyeball was the best place to bang some H.
The situation seemed dire, hopeless in my professional opinion. However, times were hard and I needed the money. As I said, the family was well to do, so they essentially hired me on retainer. The first thing I did once I got the tip, was to visit the family. Nice folks, honestly, it’s a shame their kid took such a dark turn. I didn’t even know the half of it at the time…When I got to the house, I realized just how well off these folks were. Nice cars, pool in the back, the whole nine yards. I was greeted by the lady of the house. Mrs. Willard. She was a kind woman, blonde, blue eyes, absolutely beautiful. Her beauty was mired by the obvious grief that she was going through, and I could see clearly how badly she was hurting.
“D-detective?” She said, meekly
“Yes ma’am, may I come inside and ask some questions?” I said robotically, at this point, I was absolutely convinced that I would find the kid dead in a gutter within a week at most.
“Yes, absolutely, come in!” She said with a rejuvenated glow, like the mere possibility that I could find her son was enough to change her mood. She obviously really cared about her kid. We walked into the foyer of the house, through the front room and into an immaculate kitchen area. Mrs. Willard brought me a cup and a pitcher of water.
“Are you thirsty, detective?” She said quietly. “I’ll have some water, please.”
She poured the water in my glass, then a glass for herself, and sat across from me at the kitchen table. She was obviously grieving internally. I could tell she knew how dire this situation was, she was upset, not stupid.
“So, when was the last time you saw Jason?” I asked swiftly, the sooner I got some info, the sooner I could start my investigation, and the sooner I got my payout. “Oh it has been a while, he was at the family get together for Easter, that was the last time I saw him.” Mrs. Willard said with a sob, I could tell the waterworks were about to begin.
“I’m such a fucking failure as a mother, I should have made him stay, if I could have just talked to him I could have saved him, my son is dead and it’s my fault!” She broke down heavily, so quickly. The tears in her eyes streamed down, and she began to become louder with every word.
“Mrs. Willard, please, I will do my best to bring your son back to you safely, but I need you to try and calmly answer a few more of my questions, so I can do my job.”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry, I just…feel like it’s my fault somehow.”
“That is completely normal to feel that way, Miss,” I said, trying to reassure her, trying to get information
“Now, you said you saw him last on Easter, that was almost three weeks ago, any idea where he may have been during that time? Did he ever express any plans to skip town, or leave with friends?”
“No he wasn’t like that, my boy was just sick, he needed help that we couldn’t give him,” she said, the tears starting to well up in her eyes again. I was going to have to be careful about how I asked these questions.
“So he didn’t have any places you knew about to either get his fix or to hang out while he was using?”
“There was an old house on Crickett street. I’ve had to go by there before when he called me from a payphone saying that people were going to hurt him, but that was months and months ago,” she said quickly, almost too quickly for me to understand.
“Well, that’s a start he said, do you have the number for the house on Crickett street?” I asked “It’s house number 468, I remember like it was yesterday, funny how that works, right detective?” She said, almost cracking a smile. I knew she was on the verge of losing it again. I had the information I needed, I could come back if I needed more.
“Alright, miss, I will start there. If anything else comes to mind, call my office and leave me a message, okay?”
“Yes sir,” She said, distantly, almost like she was dreaming.
I stood to leave the room, Mrs. Willard stood with me to escort me to the exit of their house. As I turned and exited the house, Mrs. Willard grabbed my arm and turned me around. “My son is dead, isn’t he? Don’t patronize me, just tell me straight, he’s dead, I know it.” “Ma’am, that is exactly what I am trying to figure out. I won’t lie to you, these kinds of situations rarely turn out pretty, but I assure you, I will do everything I can to bring him home safely to you.” That was hard to say, I did end up patronizing her, I knew it, she knew it, no one was ever gonna see that kid again. Boy, I wish it had been that simple.
I cut through town in my Ford Maverick and eventually came upon Crickett street. This was not a great part of the city by any stretch of the imagination. Lines of crack houses and makeshift brothels lined the street, and for a minute, I thought it may be possible that Jason was still alive. There were so many of these places, these shelters for the addicted and downtrodden. There was some hope in me as a walked up to the entrance of building 468 and knocked on the busted looking door knocker. No answer, I tried the doorbell, nothing. I walked around to the back of the house. The yard was in total disarray like no one had done anything with it in ages. All of the windows were covered by blinds, so I couldn’t see in. I tried knocking on the back door and once again, I was met with no response. Now if I wasn’t getting paid as much as I was from the Willards, I would have just left, and come back another time to try again. However, I wanted answers, and I was willing to fight off a junkie or two to get them. Besides, it seemed like either no one was home, or they were too strung out to do anything about it.
I moved toward the back window to the house. I slid my all-purpose knife into the space between the frame and the base of the window and pulled up hard. The window was unlocked, and it slid up with ease. I stepped in slowly. As soon as I did, I was hit by a smell. Not the usual smell of death and decay, but definitely a cousin of that smell. It smelled like neglect like no one had been in the house in a long, long time. A lot of times, that’s how these houses were, old, and rundown, and smelled bad because no one ever cleaned them. This smell, however, had a lived-in, more visceral smell. I moved further into the house, making sure to keep an ear out for anything or anyone. There was nothing. The whole house was pretty barren and run down.
As I finished clearing every room in the house, I came upon a room that was locked. “That’s odd,” I said aloud. Why would any of these doors be locked? Doesn’t seem like anyone has done anything but squat and bang heroin here for at least ten years. So why the fuck was there a locked door in the house? My first, and probably stupidest instinct was to knock, I’m not sure why maybe just a habit from my time in the PI world. Of course, this was met with complete silence. Curiosity filled my brain suddenly, I had to know what was behind that door. It was just a regular, wooden door to an otherwise completely normal room, but something told me this door was more than it seemed. The only problem was, I couldn’t open the damn thing for shit. I tried kicking it, ramming it, shit, I even considered shooting the lock off, but decided against it, since this was a residential area, not in the boondocks, and the law would be on me so fast. Finally, I had convinced myself that this door was not as mysterious as I initially thought, and turned to leave the building.
I was disappointed in myself. I had no leads on this case, and I would have to go back to the Willards to try and get more information from a grieving wife. This did not sound like a good time for me. I really just wanted to find Jason’s corpse so I could move on, harsh I know, but this was the reality of the situation. As I prepared to leave through the same window I entered through, I saw it. On the table near the exit, arms-length from the window was a small, brass key. A key that I had not noticed in the slightest on my initial pass through the building. This should not be, I know for a fact I would have seen that key when I entered. I’m a goddamn private investigator, I need to be able to notice this shit. I would have noticed this shit. Someone put that fucking key on the table for me to find, and I knew it instantly. Suddenly, this case became a lot more interesting. I examined the brass key on the table. A totally normal looking house key. With a major inkling to what it unlocked, I took it in my hand and made my way to the door I was struggling with prior.
“Son of a bitch, the key fits.” I once again said out loud. I was in complete bewilderment at this point. I slowly turned the key to hear the lock on the door disengage. I turned the knob and opened the door slightly. I stepped inside the room. Looking back, this was the worst mistake I made in my entire life.
The room looked like a normal den or home office area, complete with a desk, and a writing table, as well as an office chair and file cabinets. There were pens on the table and papers as well, like whoever had been here left suddenly. This made no sense to me, there was just a fucking office in the middle of this crack house? Was a drug dealer trying to go on Let’s Make a fucking deal or something? My brain could not fathom what I was seeing. I instantly became extremely uncomfortable. If someone left that key for me, they knew I would find this place, they wanted me to find this place. I moved toward the desk and examined the papers on the table. To my absolute horror, I found a note on the very top of the pile of papers. It simply read:
Ultra Gate program, Test subject 121, Willard, Jason. Status: Assimilated
At this, I reeled back in shock. Now it was obvious that someone was fucking with me. They knew I was looking for Jason, and they knew I couldn’t do shit. I had to get out of there immediately, I was not safe. Were they watching me? I didn’t want to find out. I grabbed the note and moved toward the door. Just as I did, I heard footsteps coming from the back of the house where I entered.
“Shit shit shit,” I repeated to myself quietly. Whoever was in here had to know I was here too. They knew I would be in here, they knew I would find the note. They wanted me to find the note. I thought quickly about my options. There was no window in this room, and I was on the second floor. Not much of a way to get out without seriously injuring myself. The footsteps were approaching the stairs, my heart pounded in my chest. I moved silently to the doorway and slightly pushed it open. I couldn’t see anything, no one coming up the stairs. Maybe they stopped because they heard me moving. I exited the room completely, ready to meet my fate. I had decided to make a B-line for the window I came through. There was no other choice. I balled my fist and turned the safety off my weapon. Prepared for the worst, I started a mad dash toward the staircase, ready to confront my assailant. However, this never happened. There was no one in the house. I ran like a fool down the dilapidated stairs and basically jumped through the window to leave. I was on the lawn, confused, scared, paranoid. Someone was seriously fucking with me. Someone didn’t want Jason to be found, but they wanted me to know that they knew I was looking for him. They wanted to deter me, and my stubborn 30-year-old brain wouldn’t allow that. They had fucked with the wrong person, I told myself.
Oh how wrong I was, but you’ll find out soon enough.